Cataracts affect more than 20 million Americans and are the most common cause of blindness in adults over the age of 40 worldwide. Unfortunately however, many of those at risk do not completely understand exactly what cataracts are or how they can be treated. At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, we believe that keeping our patients educated is the best way to ensure optimum eye health, and so here are answers to some of the most common questions we hear about cataract surgery.
What are cataracts?
In a healthy eye, light passes through the transparent lens, which is made of mostly water and protein, to the retina, where it is converted into nerve signals that are transferred to the brain. However, as the eye gets older, some of the protein in the lens may start to clump together. These clumps of protein cloud small areas of the lens and reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina. In the early stages, these tiny clouded areas may go unnoticed, but over time they can grow to the point that they significantly obscure vision and eventually even cause blindness.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
While cataracts can be caused by a number of different factors, ranging from smoking and diabetes to traumatic head or eye injury, age-related cataracts (the most common form) generally affect the vision in two ways. Either the tiny clumps of protein that cloud areas of the lens slowly grow, creating an area of blurred vision that slowly increases in size, or the entire lens gradually takes on a yellowish or brownish tint, making it more difficult to read and perform other routine activities.
How is a cataract treated?
In the early stages, the area of blurred vision caused by a cataract may be almost unnoticeable, and vision can usually be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, or anti-glare sunglasses. Over time, the cataract may grow severe enough to interfere with everyday activities and cataract surgery may be required in order to remove the damaged lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens, restoring sharp, clear vision.
How is cataract surgery performed?
Dr. William Segal uses the LenSx® laser (the newest and most advanced technology available) to create a small incision in the side of the cornea through which a tiny probe can be inserted. Then ultrasonic vibrations are used to soften and break up the lens so that it can be removed by suction. An artificial intraocular lens, or IOL, is then inserted into the lens capsule to replace the damaged lens as a permanent part of the eye.
What is an Intraocular Lens?
An intraocular lens implant (or IOL) is a synthetic, artificial lens placed inside the eye that replaces the focusing power of a natural lens which has been surgically removed as part of cataract surgery. Because those who suffer from cataracts frequently have other eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration or refractive errors like astigmatism, there are several different types of IOL that are designed to address these secondary visual deficits.
Is cataract surgery safe?
While there are risks associated with any form of surgery, cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in the United States, with approximately three million Americans undergoing cataract surgery each year. According to statistics verified by the Center for Disease Control, cataract surgery has a 98% success rate, significantly better than nearly any other form of surgery, and less than one patient in 200 experiences any significant postoperative complications.
If you have any other questions about laser cataract surgery, or would like to schedule an eye exam, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more to keep your vision healthy.